As newly bereaved parents, we hear this all the time. I can't imagine what you're going through. I can't imagine what you're feeling. I can't imagine what this is like. I can't imagine. I understand this sentiment completely. People want to be respectful of the terrible loss we have experienced. They don't want to assume that they know how it feels. They want to tell us that they see the depth of our pain and they respect the tragedy we have experienced. But as a writer who relies on imagination daily, I want to tell them - and you - that there is an important clarification to be made here. You can imagine how we are feeling. What you mean is that you can only imagine. (And that you may not want to imagine.) The difference between these statements matters deeply. . . . The gift of imagination is one of the most powerful tools we have in our relationships. It is a fundamental part of what makes us human. Our minds can move from the present here and now … [Read more...] about you can imagine. let me help you.
Listen closely. What I have to say is just as important - if not more - than this story. The one that started it all. And brought so many of you here. Every single story has a dark side. And the dark side of the unexpected joy we found during Abby's death - it matters just as much as the light. Remember that father who came up to us in the parking lot after Mass? The one who teared up when he shared his own loss of a daughter to stillbirth? Right before he turned to go, he added one last thing. Perhaps the most important thing. He said, "After I heard your story, I turned to my wife and asked, 'What did we miss? Why didn't we feel like that when we lost our daughter?'" Standing in the freezing cold parking lot, March wind whipping around my hair, tired kids pulling on my arms to hurry up and get in the car, I saw that this stranger had shown me the dark side of the light. Why didn't we feel like that? . . . Grammar can help to clarify. We did nothing to "earn" the … [Read more...] about the dark side of light
Before we had children, I knew someone who lost a baby after her premature birth. She posted photos of her dead daughter on Facebook. She wore a necklace with her child's name engraved on it. She included the baby when people asked how many children she had. I thought all of this was weird. And creepy. And unhealthy. Years earlier I had heard a radio program about a father grieving for his six month-old son and starting a non-profit foundation to help other parents facing similar loss. I can still picture the stoplight where I was sitting in the car as I thought to myself: How can you grieve a child you only knew for six months? My brother died when he was two decades old. We knew him. That's what real loss is. How clearly I understood the world before I had to understand it. Now I know this is normal. . . . Last Sunday a stranger came up to us in the parking lot after Mass. He knew our story. He wanted to thank us for sharing it with … [Read more...] about the honest truth
Every morning my son goes off to school. He slings a giant shark backpack over his tiny shoulder, and he waves to me as I drive away from the carpool lane. And every morning as he turns into the school's open door, the same fear catches my heart. What if that is the last time I see him? This is not a normal response, I know. But it is not normal to live in a land where a man murders a classroom of first-graders. And then we do nothing to prevent this from happening again. It is not normal to live in a land where I need to sit through a safety training, as an employee of a university, to learn what to do in "an active shooter scenario" on campus. It is not normal to live in a land where my husband lays today's newspaper face down on the kitchen counter so the kids cannot read the headlines or see the photos. The latest version of the same school shooting horror we watch unfold every few months. I have a first-grader. Sandy Hook stares me in the face every single time … [Read more...] about I have a first-grader